St. Mary’s College produced a terrific final quarter display to overcome Ballymena 26-18 at Templeville Road and replace the Braidmen at the summit of Ulster Bank League Division 1B.
Visitors Ballymena, who were unbeaten and top of the table before kick-off, led 10-6 at the break thanks to unconverted tries from number 8 Matthew Rea and centre Rodger McBurney. The latter’s lung-bursting score on the stroke of half-time was his fourth try of the campaign.
St. Mary’s lost their captain Rob Sweeney to injury, but they were ahead within three minutes of the restart as scrum half Robbie Glynn did well to ground the ball following a persistent spell of pressure.
Sean Kearns converted to add to his two first half penalties, only for Ballymena to swiftly respond. Their Ulster lock Alan O’Connor – playing against his younger brother David – took advantage of a gap on the right to power over for their third unconverted try.
Ritchie McMaster’s drop goal made it 18-13 to Andy Graham’s men, however St. Mary’s gained crucial momentum on the back of a Kearns penalty and replacement prop Tom O’Reilly’s try from a well-worked attack.
Young out-half Kearns followed up with the conversion and then split the posts with his fourth successful penalty from long range, taking his league tally to 68 points in six games as Peter Smyth’s side saw out a hard-fought victory.
Boosted by the presence of Munster scrum half Cathal Sheridan, UL Bohemians picked up just their second win in six league outings as Jamie McNamara’s brace of tries helped them edge out Blackrock College 21-14 at Stradbrook.
‘Rock were leading 14-11 with a quarter of an hour remaining. David Rowan’s converted try, on the back of Rick McKenna’s sin-binning for a high tackle, had the Dubliners back in front.
However, out-half McKenna returned to kick the levelling penalty for Bohs, and then left winger McNamara notched a last-gasp try to end a run of three defeats on the bounce for Gearoid Prendergast’s team.
Dolphin survived six minutes of injury-time to make it back-to-back wins, with Rory Scannell steering them past Buccaneers 24-23 at Irish Independent Park.
Munster centre Scannell kicked four penalty goals – including the match-winning kick late on – as the Corkmen triumphed despite being outscored by three tries to two.
Scannell converted Shane McAuliffe’s try to close the gap to 15-10 at half-time, and his provincial colleague Cian Bohane touched down to move Dolphin 18-15 ahead.
Conor McKeon briefly kicked Buccs level – Scannell was quick to respond – and full-back Callum Boland then became the third member of the Pirates’ back-three to cross the whitewash, adding to earlier efforts from Rory O’Connor (his fifth of the season) and Eoghan O’Reilly.
However, McKeon was unable to convert at 23-21 and the ice-cool Scannell had the final say for Feargus O’Donoghue’s charges, who have climbed up to sixth in the table.
Dublin University leapfrogged Buccaneers into fourth place courtesy of a well-judged 26-12 success against Belfast Harlequins at College Park.
Harlequins, who are now seven points adrift at the foot of the table, have an incredible 22 players out injured at present and it is really taking a toll on their performances and results.
In a stop-start first half, a penalty and drop goal from Trinity out-half Jack McDermott provided the difference on the scoreboard – 6-0. The students pressed for a try on the stroke of half-time but stout defending from the visitors kept them out.
Nonetheless, a yellow card for ‘Quins captain Neil McComb left his side under severe pressure and the tries duly came for Tony Smeeth’s youngsters. After another McDermott penalty, returning centre Seb Fromm broke through to make it 14-0.
Number 8 Tom Ryan crossed the whitewash with 10 minutes remaining and although Kingsley McGowan’s sin-binning invited the Ulstermen forward with replacement Mark Foster bagging two late tries, full-back Conor Kearns sandwiched in a third for Trinity to make sure of the win.
Number 10 Tadhg Bennett recaptured his best kicking form as his 20-point tally inspired Shannon to a memorable 25-17 victory over former table toppers Old Wesley on Thomond Park’s back pitch.
Bennett made it a happy Halloween for Marcus Horan’s young squad by landing six penalty goals – two of them in the second half – and converting centre Will Leonard’s 26th-minute try.
It was Shannon’s second successive win, adding to the momentum gained from their recent derby triumph over UL Bohs. But they got off to a poor start against Wesley whose number 8 Mark Rowley barged up on a strong carry and the ball was moved wide for full-back Rory Stynes to touch down with just three minutes on the clock.
Indiscipline from the Dubliners allowed out-half Bennett to kick Shannon into a 9-5 lead and they were 19-14 to the good at the turnaround, with David O’Donovan’s clever chip leading to a fine score from Leonard.
Bennett had the gap out to 25-14 before Barry McLaughlin fired over his fourth successful penalty on the hour mark. Neither place-kicker could find the target during a tight final quarter as Shannon handed Wesley their second defeat of the league run.